I normally do not talk about politics on my blog, but I feel very strongly about this issue and want to share it with my readers. State governments across the United States are slashing their budgets in a wide variety of areas, including Education. This is certainly true in my home state of North Carolina, which is taking its Education budget cuts too far in my opinion. Currently North Carolina public schools are facing more than $1 billion in budget cuts. The proposed cuts are going to impact class size and likely could cause some schools to shut their doors. “When North Carolina had tough choices to make during the Depression, political leaders stepped forward and made a very courageous decision to raise taxes and keep public schools strong. What is missing at the moment is that kind of political courage. We are not going to cut our way out of this recession. As our president said in his inauguration speech, ‘the countries that out educate us today will out compete us tomorrow,’” said Debra Horton, the president of the North Carolina Parent Teachers’ Association, in a press release from the NC Association of Educators.
While no one has yet to come up with a “fix,” it is clear that unless something is done, North Carolina is going to feel the budget impact on multiple levels. If the budget is slashed as planned, it is estimated that nearly 12,000 North Carolina educators would be added to our state’s already staggering number of unemployed. School officials estimate that in my county alone, budget cuts could result in termination of more than 100 teachers. This would severely reduce funding for programs and services designed to assist at-risk students and would limit the number of textbooks the district would purchase. If textbooks are limited this would prevent our children from being able to bring them home at night, virtually eliminating parents being able to help with homework. Fewer teachers would mean increased class size which would prevent students from getting the individualized attention they deserve. According the U.S. Dept of Education publication, Reducing Class Size, What Do We Know?, class size reduction in the early grades leads to higher student achievement. On being assigned to smaller classes, teachers report that the classroom atmosphere is better, that students can receive more individualized attention, and that the teachers have more flexibility to use different instructional approaches and assignments. Larger classroom sizes would likely result in lower levels of student achievement.
As a parent of a child in the public school system, I am very concerned about the proposed budget cuts. I am a parent, not a politician, but why not raise taxes on cigarettes and divert the funds to Education? According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, North Carolina has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates and currently ranks 48th nationwide (May 28, 2009 data). While North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue has proposed a tax increase of $1.oo per pack for cigarettes (raising the current tax of 35 cents per pack to $1.35), I do not think that is enough. Other states have increased their taxes even more. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids which tracks this data, 13 states (including DC) have cigarette tax rates of $2.00 per pack or higher and one state (Rhode Island) has a cigarette tax rate of $3.00 per pack or higher. According to a report from the North Carolina Alliance for Health, raising North Carolina’s cigarette tax by $1.00 will generate an additional $329 million in new revenue in the first year. Raising it more than $1.oo would logically make our state even more money. If this money was earmarked for Education, our public schools might not be adversely affected by state budget cuts. Not only would we save money, we would save lives.
Whether you live in North Carolina or another state facing budget cuts, I urge you to contact your Governor and State legislators to voice your opinion that Education should be protected as much as possible. It’s the least we can do for our children who are our country’s future.